Innovative research has provided the first clues towards creating an anti-viral therapy for dengue fever, which affects 390 million people each year worldwide.
Infection with the insect-borne tropical disease may result in a range of illnesses, from a mild flu which causes high fever and joint pains, to potentially fatal dengue haemorrhagic fever.
There are currently no vaccines or anti-viral treatments which can safely or effectively control the disease.
However, researchers from the University of Bristol have shown that there could be significant differences between the four dengue virus types.
Research published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry has found that although all four types of dengue virus cause the disease, one protein in particular – NS5 – is essential for the virus to spread.
The researchers said that targeting this protein could be the key to developing anti-virals.
Dr Andrew Davidson, senior lecturer in virology at the University of Bristol said: “This study shows for the first time that there may be significant differences in specific properties of the viral proteins…This is important as it impacts on our understanding of viral replication and pathogenesis and the design of anti-vital therapies that are effective against all [dengue fever] types.”
Due to increased travel and urbanisation, the number of individuals infected with dengue is rising.